DCC Digital

Setting up the MD Electronics MZSpro DCC Command Station

I recently began my digital journey with MD Electronic’s Digital System. In this post, I walk through the steps to setup the Command Station (Central Station) with Wifi and connect the controller. This post will not cover installing or configuring decoders in locomotives – this is a separate topic that definitely requires its own post. What you will get is a guide to making the control part of your digital journey ready to do.

The MD Electronics website has a download section where you can read setup instructions for the MZS Pro (and Wifi module) in both German and English. However, I wanted to put all the steps together here with some commentary to help you with things I learned during these stages.

There are a few steps we go through in this guide:

  1. Installing the Wifi Module into the MZSpro
  2. Connecting the components
  3. Setting up the MZSPro
  4. Setting up the Z21 Controller

So let’s begin…

Install the Wifi Module

First thing to do is install the Wifi module. This allows you to use the wireless Z21 controller and configure decoders. As I understand there are wired versions of the controller (at a cheaper price point) but for me I wanted the flexibility of wireless.

  1. Ensure the power to the MZSPro is disconnected
  2. Press on the grey sides of the case above/below where the grills are. You’ll feel the catches come away and pull the case up. Note: I found one of my hooks was catching internally so I had to take the case off at angle. It felt uncomfortable but came off eventually.
  3. Remove the black blanking plate from the back of the base (on the left in the picture below). This will slide out.
  4. Slide the provided Wifi Adapter into the slot where the blanking plate was. The brass circle should face out and the wire/chip on the inside.
  5. Connect the wifi module to the circuit board. The slot for the wifi is on the side where the blanking plate was. It is on the bottom left if the blanking plate was on left hand side. The pins or near the fan. The connector will slide on and will not require a lot of force.
Inside the MZSPro Command Station preparing for the Wifi Module to be added
  1. Reattach the case lid. As mentioned in the step for removing the case, there was a component internally that make this more difficult for me (the white block near the top in the picture) so had to put it back on at an angle and then flatten the lid. This was a bit awkward and caused the case to bow outwhen reassembling. This bow disappeared after I was done
  2. Screw in the antenna to the plate you just added.

And you’re done with this step!

Connect the equipment

First, I recommend doing the basic setup without being connected the track. With most things like this I find that starting simple and slowly adding complexity is the best way to approach things.

  1. Take the short cable with a green plug on on one end and a black circular plug on the other end. Plug the green end into the Central Station on the right-most socket (labeled “Trafo“). Note, when I received mine there was a green plug with no wires already in this socket – remove it as you’ll use this for connecting the track later)
  2. Plug the power adapter’s output (small circular end) into the short cables short circular end.
  3. Plug the power adapter into the wall

At this point, you should see the two LED light up (red and green) and remain solid. This is all that is required for this step.

Next, it’s time to setup the Wifi configuration for both the Command Station and the Z21 Controller. I’ll walk through each in turn.

MZS Pro / Command Station

The MZS Pro is the piece of technology to receives signals (from a controller, laptop or app) and sends these signals to the decoders. To do this, we need to be able to connect to it using the Wifi we just installed.

Wifi Options

There are a two of options available on how you can use this.

  1. Standalone / Access Point Mode – this means the Command Station is on its own independent wireless network. In this mode, you can connect the Controller, your laptop or your phone to this independent network to make changes and control your railway.
  2. Client Mode – this means the Command Station connects to your network over Wifi like your computer, phone or other devices at home would. All your devices (laptop, phone etc) connect to your network like normal and are able to talk to the Command Station.

The first option is useful if your Command Station is in a location that doesn’t have access to your wifi network. I opted for the second mode for convenience and our apartment has good Wifi coverage over the whole area and I like the idea of being able to use the internet in parallel on my laptop without switching networks (particularly useful when I’m researching/Googling how to many changes etc). If you decide to use Client Mode, Access Point mode always remain available to you.

If you chose to use Access Point mode, you can skip the next section as no effort is required.

Setup the Command Station Wifi for Client Mode

  1. Ensure the MZS Pro Command Station is powered on. You should see a red and green static LED on the front panel.
  2. Go to your computer and view the list of wireless networks. You should see a network named “mXion MZSpro“. Click this network
Note: This screenshot is from a Mac. Your interface may look different.
  1. Enter the password listed in your documentation. At the time of writing (December 2020), this is “MDELEC1207“. Once connected, you’ll likely get a warning about not having an internet connection. This is fine.
  2. Open your internet browser (the programme/app you’re using to view this website), and type in “192.168.111.111” and press Return/Enter. You should see a page similar to the below appear:
  1. Under the section for Wifi Client, enter your network name in the box labelled Netzwerkname (SSID). This is the name of the network you usually use (e.g. BTHOMEHUB8283 or FRITZBOX! 7981) – the one you tell your friend to connect to when they come visit.
  2. Enter the password for the above network in the box labelled Passwort – again, the one you tell your friends to use.
  3. Leave all other settings the same. NB: DHCP: 1 should only be changed to 0 if you’re using static IP addresses.
  4. Scroll down and press save.
  5. The page should reload and you should see an IP address listed (it will probably look like 196.168.0.xxx or 196.168.1.xxx with xxx being a number from 1 to 254). Make a note of this as you will need it for controlling your layout and programming decoders)
  6. Go back to your list of Wifi networks in your operating system and switch back to your normal network. Once it has connected, type the IP address you noted down in the step above into the browser and press enter. You should see the same page as before load.

This should be all that is required to connect to the Command Station. However, when I did this I had a bit of trouble getting the Control Centre to connect. In true technical fashion, I unplugged the Command Station, waited 30seconds, and plugged it in again. Then I waited a minute or so then repeat from step 10. If you’re still having trouble, repeat from step 2.

The main thing is you see an IP address listed under the Wifi Client Section and are able to connect.

Note: Access point mode is always available. You can always connect directly to the Command Station using the “mXion MZSpro” network and IP address “192.168.111.111“.

(Optional) Check Connection using MD-DCC-Tool

A quick sanity check to ensure everything is working so far is to download the MD-DCC-Tool. This software is used to make changes to the decoders and connects to the Command Station.

Note: This is only available for Windows. If you have a Mac like myself, you’ll need to find a way to run Windows (bootcamp, virtualbox, wine).

  1. Download the MD-DCC-Tool from the MD Electronic’s Download page under the “Tools” section.
  2. Open the application

TIP: You can change the language using the dropdown in the top right. This resets every time you close the application.

  1. In the top left, you’ll see an input to enter the IP address of the Command Station. Enter your IP Address here

IMPORTANT: The IP address will be either the IP you noted down in the above section if you opted for Client Mode or 192.168.0.111 if you’re in Direct / Access Point mode.

  1. Click “Connect WLAN”
  2. Near the top right, you’ll see the status change from “Not Connected” to “Connected (MZSpro)”

If it doesn’t connect. Ensure you’ve entered the IP address correctly, you are connected to the correct network and the MZSpro is powered on with both the red and green LEDs lit solidly.

Z21 Controller

Now it’s time to setup the controller. The included manual does a good job of walking through this section but for completeness I will include here too.

The controller uses Wifi to connect to the Command Station so you can control your layout. It works with both Direct / Access Point or Client Mode and the steps involved for both are the same.

To connect the controller

  1. Remove the back cover and insert x3 AAA batteries into the controller
  2. Press the “OK” button to turn on the controller
  3. Use the arrow keys at the top near the display to set the language (my defaulted to German so I switched to English). Press “OK” to confirm.
  4. Ensure you are in range of your wireless network. If you’re using Direct / Access Point mode, this is near the Command Station. If you’re using Client Mode like me, this is near your router.
  5. Now you will see “SSID” on the screen. This means your Wifi network name. Press “OK”
  6. Now you will see “Search” on the screen. This lets us scan the area for Wifi networks. Press “OK”
  7. Use the arrow keys to find the name of your wireless network. The text will scroll to show you longer network names. Press “OK” when done.
  8. Now the will see “PWD” on the screen. Enter the password you use to connect to your Wifi network

Now is the time to remember how we sent SMS messages before Smart phones. Enter letters like we did in the 2000s. For special characters, use the key 1 . A complete list of special characters is found in section 1.2 of the Z21 Controller manual (p. 40 in English)

  1. Once done. Press “OK” to complete

The controller will restart and be ready to use.

Conclusion

That’s it. Your base setup should be done. Your next step is to setup the locos and devices to be controlled. This usually involves installing decoders in the locomotives or connecting the switches and programming via your setup. I’ll write separately on this.